A bond beyond words

Retired K9 officer Doc Stanely and officer Joseph Gobely in May of this year. file photo

Community rallies to help West St. Paul officer adopt furry partner.


On Sept. 25, West St. Paul police officer Joseph Gobely handed over $1 and a contract to city Finance Director Char Stark. 

The transaction officially made K9 officer Doc Stanely, a 3-year-old German shepherd, a member of the Gobely family and a retired officer, something that may not have been possible without support from the community.


The sidekick

Gobely has been part of West St. Paul’s K9 program since January of 2016. It was his passion for dogs that made him interested in becoming a K9 officer. He has one adopted German shepherd that was found in a ditch off the highway, almost dead. Gobely will now also have Doc, as well as a new K9 partner that he will get in November or December.

“It is hard to explain the bond you have with K9s when you train them and when they are successful on the street, for the countless hours of training you put into them,” Gobely says 

Doc and Gobely were partners since Gobely became part of the K9 program. Gobely says Doc is an impressive and intelligent partner, who is incredibly bonded to his handler.

“When we are together he follows me around and waits for me. When I’m sleeping and my wife has him in the living room, he lays by the bedroom door until I get up,” Gobely says. “When I cut the grass in the front yard he will stay in the window and will not move, staring at me, until I come in.” Gobely says.


An early retirement

Gobely says it’s hard to know when he first started to notice something was up with Doc, who is suffering from arthritis throughout his front shoulders and his upper spine, as well as a ruptured disc in his lower back. Maybe it was last winter, when Doc would sometimes jump and yelp.

“He started to do what I would call ‘chugging,’ where it looked like he was having trouble with his front legs, shoulders, neck,” Gobely says. Doc had therapy on those areas, and he appeared to be getting better.

In June, Doc had a rough encounter with a felony suspect, where they rolled down a hill, and the suspect assaulted Doc. After this, Gobely says he noticed Doc was losing control of his rear legs when he would cut sharply.

An MRI was done and the extent of his injuries became clear — Doc’s early retirement is mainly from the ruptured disc in his lower back. 

“This injury is significant enough that the physical demand of being a police K9 could cause him to become paralyzed, should there be significant impact to that area again,” Gobely says.

He and his family always had the idea of adopting Doc when he could no longer fulfill his duties. 

“My hope was for him to continue with his successful career and to be able to adopt him for a dollar when he retired,” Gobely says. However, Doc’s injury changed those plans.

The department’s police K9s come with a warranty from the supplier, meaning if there are issues with the dog within the warranty timeframe, the supplier will replace the K9. 

In Doc’s case, he was going to be fully covered under the warranty. He would have been sent back the supplier and the department would get a new K9 for free.

There were two options: send Doc back and the department would get a new dog for free, or keep Doc, and purchase another dog for $9,000.


The community 

rallies together

Jennifer Perry, who works for Xtreme Tree Team in West St. Paul, heard about Doc’s retirement predicament and wanted to do something about it.

During Labor Day weekend, Sarge, Perry’s dog, got out through an open gate and Perry was unsure what direction he went. After riding around the neighborhood looking for him, Pete Strand, who is the owner of Xtreme Tree Team, called Gobely, who normally patrols in the evening.

They found out that Gobely and his wife Ashlee took that weekend off to spend time with Doc, because he had to be returned in a couple weeks to his supplier, since he was injured.

“I told Joe on the phone that Friday night there was no way we were going to let that happen. I said we would do a fundraiser and promised him Doc would be staying home with [Gobely],” Perry says.

Perry ran her idea of starting a GoFundMe page past police Chief Bud Shaver, and launched the page on Sept. 2. It started with a donation of $500 from Xtreme Tree Team and a challenge to other West St. Paul businesses to match.

Perry describes the response as incredible, not only from businesses, but also individuals. 

The original goal was $8,500, which was reached in four days. Perry found out the actual purchase price was $9,000, and by Sept. 19, the page had raised $9,700. 


Continued support

On Sept. 11, the West St. Paul City Council approved a resolution declaring Doc as surplus, allowing him to be adopted by Gobely.

At its Sept. 25 meeting, the city accepted the donation raised from the GoFundMe page, which will be used to purchase the new K9 dog.

In speaking of the donations and efforts to raise money for Doc, council member Ed Iago described it as a “very West St. Paul-ish” thing to do.

Shaver said at the meeting that besides the start up costs, the police department’s K9 program has not spent any taxpayer money — it has run on donations. Mike, the previous K9 dog, was purchased through community donations.

When it came time to purchase Doc for the department, Skadron Animal Hospital in West St. Paul gave a large donation, and Doc was named after the founder of the hospital, Stanely Skadron. The hospital also donated and helped raise funds for both Mike and Doc to have bullet resistant vets.

“Without the support of our incredible citizens there would be a chance that I would of never been able to be a K9 handler and for that I’m so grateful, for every single one of the citizens that help keep this program going,” Gobely says.


Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com.


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